What is a Poet?

What is a poet? A poet is an unhappy being whose heart is torn by secret sufferings, but whose lips are so strangely formed that when the sighs and the cries escape them, they sound like beautiful music. . . . And men crowd about the poet and say to him, “Sing for us again;” that is as much to say, “May new sufferings torment your soul, but may your lips be formed as before; for the cries would only frighten us but the music is delicious.”

Søren Kierkegaard

Lincoln’s Legend and Legacy

The color of the ground was in him, the red earth;
The smack and tang of elemental things:
The rectitude and patience of the cliff;
The good-will of the rain that loves all leaves.

— Edwin Markham, Lincoln, Man of the People

I watched the Bill Moyer’s special last night on Lincoln’s Legend and Legacy. Since moving to North Carolina a year and a half ago, I have become a student of the Civil War. The passion with which both sides fought and Lincoln’s incredible role in holding the Union together ignites in me a deep fascination for my adopted country.

The excerpt above is but a few lines from a rich and delightful poem by Edwin Markham. The second verse alone brings tears to my eyes and is worth committing to memory. Steel away a few quiet moments today and indulge yourself in a full reading of Markham’s Lincoln, Man of the People.

Be the Best of Whatever You Are

If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill,
     Be a shrub in the valley – but be
The best little shrub by the side of the hill;
     Be a bush if you can’t be a tree.

If you can’t be a bush, be a bit of grass,
     And some highway happier make;
If you can’t be a muskie then just be a bass,
     But the liveliest bass in the lake!

We can’t all be captains, some have to be crew,
     There’s something for all of us here;
There’s work to be done, and we all have to do
     Our part in the way that’s sincere.

If you can’t be a highway, then just be a trail,
     If you can’t be the sun, be a star;
It isn’t by size that you win or you fail,
     Be the best of whatever you are.

— Douglas Mallock